The Carpenter Seals Lily’s Widowhood (1943)

By Nicolette Bethel

While Nassau fixed its eyes on dukes and counts
and murdered knights, while every mouth was fat
with feathered corpses, cindered beds, and fingerprints
on screens too charred to trust, with forearms scarred and burned,
with shady gumshoes, Nazis, Dagoes, Swedes, and Jews,
diverted lawyers, loyal wives — Eddie faltered in the heat.

Each day his limb-bloat hardened. Poison twisted in his gut.
His skin grew deadleaf dry and black like clouds drawn thick
across the sky. He couldn’t piss; he couldn’t sweat; and when his heart
made flutters in his chest, he whispered, Love, my house is burning.

Lily checked the stove, the yard, the sky, and whispered back:
No fire here. But Eddie smiled. He knew the truth, and lacked
the words to tell it. The doctor stopped at the bedroom door
and beckoned Lily, shook his head. My dear, he said, no fire there.


The Caribbean Review of Books, November 2008

Nicolette Bethel is a Bahamian playwright, poet, and anthropologist who has served as the director of culture for the Bahamas government. Her work has been published in a variety of print and online publications.